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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Vegetarian Meatloaf

   I've been a veg-head for nearly 15 years and I have always missed my mother's meatloaf.  About two years ago, I was introduced to another kind of meatloaf made from ground turkey and tons of sauteed veggies.  As I watch my sister-in-law prepare this dish I thought how easy this could be transformed into a delicious and healthy veggie meatloaf.  After a quite a few trials, I realized that I could get the best of both worlds by combining these recipes.
   I of course started out by making a veggie version and the turkey version for my carnivorous partner.  I would always have him taste test mine to determine comparability.  Well after tweaking mine little by little and watching him devour the portion I had intended for my consumption, I determined that the veggie version wins this contest. Even my son has loved it since we started him on solids and little does he know how many veggies he's eating!! And though I'm kind of a stickler for normal, everyday meatloaf, I'm sure the possibilities are endless here.  Apples, sage and stuffing mix?  Red peppers, water chestnuts and terriyaki sauce?  Black beans, corn and chipotle peppers?  These are all sounding so yummy...perhaps I should venture out!
  The veggies I use are by no means the only options as most of the time I am simply trying to use up what I have in my fridge...but here it is:

Vegetarian 'Meatloaf'

1 package Morning Star Farms crumbles
1/2 onion - diced
2 carrots - peeled and diced
2 stalks celery - diced
1 small zuchinni - diced
4 crimini mushrooms - chopped
1/2 package frozen spinach - squeeze dried
2 eggs
1/3 c. milk
1 tsp thyme
2-3 tbsp parsley
1 bay leaf crumbled
3 garlic cloves pressed
1/4 c. 'chicken' stock *or veggie*
1/3 c. parmesan cheese
1 c. bread crumbs *or to your likeness..this really helps the consistency and the varying degrees of dryness.  the more bread crumbs you use...the dryer and firmer your meatloaf will be*
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 325  (I convection baked mine though just add baking time if you prefer regular baking method)

1. In medium saute pan, heat olive oil over med-high heat.  Add onions, carrots and celery and season with salt.  Saute for 5 mins or until onion are just tender.  Add mushrooms, zuchini and spinach.  Cover and saute for 3-5 mins until mushrooms have reduced and are soft.   
2. In the meantime, place crumbles in microwave safe bowl and defrost for 3 mins.  Some chunks might still be mildly frozen.
3.  Combine eggs, milk, chicken stock,  cheese and spices.  Add veggies and crumbles and mix thoroughly.  Slowly add bread crumbs till your desired consistency is reached.  I like mine to be able to hold it's shape after being molded.  If it falls apart in the bowl it's going to fall apart on your plate as well.  **My mother always told me the key to her meatloaf is to spank the hell out of it.  It had the best consistency of any meatloaf I've ever tried.  not mushy...not too dense...just perfect.  I use this same method on my own meatloaf and it seems to work pretty well.  Not to mention, this is a great way to relieve any built up stress.** 
4.  Spray 8x8 baking dish with nonstick coating.  Pour in bowl of meatload and press firmly into pan.  Bake covered for 30 mins.  Uncover and resume baking for an additional 30 mins.  The top should be firm to the touch with a little crispness to it.  Let cool at least 15 minutes before cutting.

Ideally meatloaves should be tipped over and come out of their pan...I haven't had such luck but if you have a secret tip up your sleeve be sure to let me know!

*Variations...You could try subbing a mixture of brown rice and lentils for the burger crumbles.  Though I have not tried it, I'm sure all the right flavors would still be there.  The original ground turkey recipe calls for 1 c. cooked lentils but I always seem to run out of time and stove top space.

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